UC Browser

UC Browser is a Chinese web browser developed by mobile internet company UCWeb, a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group. It is one of the most popular mobile browsers in China and Indonesia,[7] and was the 8th most downloaded mobile app of the 2010–2019 decade.[8]

UC Browser
UC Browser Logo.png
Homepage of UC Browser for iOS, running on iPhone X with United States location services
Homepage of UC Browser for iOS, running on iPhone X with United States location services
Developer(s)UCWeb Alibaba Group
Stable release(s) [±]
Microsoft Windows

7.0.185.1002 (January 8, 2018; 2 years ago (2018-01-08)[1])

iOS

11.3.2.1094 (August 19, 2018; 23 months ago (2018-08-19)[2])

Android

13.0.2.1289 (February 6, 2020; 5 months ago (2020-02-06)[3])

Android mini

12.12.6.1222 (February 7, 2020; 5 months ago (2020-02-07)[4])

Java

9.5.0.449 (June 23, 2014; 6 years ago (2014-06-23)[5])

UCBrowser UWP
1.0.468.0 (March 24, 2017; 3 years ago (2017-03-24)[6]) [±]
EngineBlink, V8
Operating systemiOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows RT, S60, J2ME, Windows CE, Microsoft Windows, MTK, Tizen, Bada, BREW
Standard(s)HTML5, CSS3
Available inChinese, English, Urdu, Bangla, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Russian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Bhojpuri
TypeMobile browser
LicenseProprietary software with EULA (link) and Terms of Use (link)
Websitewww.ucweb.com

Originally launched in April 2004 as a J2ME-only application, it is now available on a number of platforms including Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS, Java ME, Symbian, Windows Phone and Microsoft Windows.[9] It has been the subject of several security and privacy controversies, and was banned in India on June 29, 2020, shortly after the 2020 China–India skirmishes.[10]

FunctionalityEdit

UC Browser is a cross-platform web browser primarily targeted at mobile phones.[7] It is known for its small app size and data compression technology, making it popular in emerging markets where people tend to have mobile phones with more limited device memory and internet bandwidth.[7] In particular, the browser is unique in its use of proxy servers, which run data through UCWeb servers before sending it to the user's device, enabling data compression but also posing privacy risks.[9] Additional features of the browser include cloud acceleration, multi-file format downloading, HTML5 web app and cloud syncing features, and "fast download", a feature that downloads files in multiple parts simultaneously.

PlatformsEdit

UC Browser is available as both an Android app and an iOS app, and is also available on several other older or discontinued mobile operating systems including BlackBerry OS, Symbian, and Windows Phone.[11] While primarily a mobile app, UCWeb also offers a Microsoft Windows desktop version (there is no macOS version).

The Android mobile operating system represents the largest user base for the company, which as of 2014 accounted for 300 million of its 500 million users.[12]

Data compressionEdit

UC Browser uses proxy servers to compress web pages before sending them to users.[9] This process requires less memory on the user's device and lowers data costs; however, it also poses privacy and security risks as all of the data accessed by the user through UC Browser first runs through a UCWeb server, rather than going directly to the user's device.

UC+: HTML5, WebApp and add-onsEdit

In July 2013, UCWeb announced the UC+ Open Platform. The platform consists of a WebApp store, an add-on platform and an Application Bookmark Platform. It went live with the launch of UC Browser v9.2 for Android.[13]

Developers can use a provided SDK to create programs that the browser runs in different scenarios. Users can download and install them from the browser's add-on panel. Examples include sharing to social media, webpage translation, augmented reality, and voice control. The Application Bookmark Platform allows partner websites to put up a QR code on UC Browser for users to scan, which adds the webpage to their bookmarks. This platform was among the first in China.

Download managementEdit

The browser supports simultaneous downloads and includes a download manager, including pages for offline reading. It supports pausing and resuming downloads.[14] The current version of the download manager has features designed to solve common problems while downloading, such as an intermittent internet connection and mislabeled files.[15] The download process can continue after the app is closed, and can also automatically resume if the download is interrupted.[16] The download manager sorts downloaded files by type and places them in respective folders.[17]

Cloud systemEdit

UCWeb claims that the cloud system used by the browser tends to fetch data from the closest servers available, making the loading process quicker and smoother for users.[18]

Privacy and securityEdit

PrivacyEdit

Leaked NSA reportsEdit

In May 2015, National Security Agency (NSA) documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden indicated that UC Browser leaks sensitive data like international mobile subscriber identities, international mobile station equipment identities, MSISDN's, Android ID's, MAC addresses, and geolocation and Wi-Fi-related data without any encryption.[19] These leaks were used by intelligence agencies to track users. The documents also revealed that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) had identified UC Browser as a security weak point. Its widespread use in China, India and Indonesia made it particularly attractive to ASD. The documents revealed that in cooperation with its Five Eyes partners, ASD hacked the UC Browser and infected smartphones with spyware. The ASD declined to comment in relation to the revelations.[20]

Citizen Lab reportEdit

In May 2015, Citizen Lab, a laboratory based at the University of Toronto, published a report finding numerous privacy and security issues with both the English language and Chinese language editions of the Android version of UC Browser.[21][22][23][24][25] The report criticized the transmission of personally identifiable information to various commercial analytics tools and the transmission of user search queries without encryption. They also managed to bypass the encryption of UC Browser, leading them to accuse UCWeb of using non-effective encryption systems to transmit personally identifiable subscriber data, mobile device identifiers, and user geolocation data.[26]

In May 2016, Alibaba Group provided Citizen Lab with updated versions of UC Browser in order to verify their security fixes to these issues. The subsequent update published by Citizen Lab indicated that not all of the previously identified data leaks and privacy breaches had been fixed in UC Browser.[27][28]

India investigationEdit

After the release of the Citizen Lab report, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Hyderabad, a scientific research unit within India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), began a technical investigation into the "several major privacy and security vulnerabilities that would seriously expose users of UC Browser to surveillance and other privacy violations" alleged in the report.[29] C-DAC found that the browser (which is the second-most-used browser in India) had been sending user data to Chinese servers and that it retains control over a user's device DNS even after the browser is deleted.[30]

SecurityEdit

Research has found that UC Browser is insecure, with many vulnerabilities and privacy issues.

In March 2019, analysts at the anti-malware firm Doctor Web publicly disclosed that UC Browser and UC Browser Mini for Android was downloading and installing extra modules from the company's own servers via an unprotected HTTP channel.[31] This exposed browser users to arbitrary remote code execution if an attacker was able to perform a man-in-the-middle attack to deliver malicious module (but no cases of exploitation were publicly disclosed). Furthermore, this violates Google Play policies that forbid Google Play apps from downloading any executable code from any sources outside of Google Play. Researchers contacted both UCWeb Inc. and Google prior to the disclosure, but as of March 26, 2019, neither app was patched and users are still vulnerable to the attack.[32]

According to tests on Qualys, a cloud security firm, and High-Tech Bridge, an internet security firm, UC Browser contains Logjam, FREAK, and POODLE vulnerabilities.[33][34] UC Browser also uses an outdated RC4 cipher cryptography with deprecated SSL 3 or even SSL 2 protocols, which have many security flaws.[35]

Market adoptionEdit

As of March 2014, UC Browser has over 500 million users, largely in China, India, and Indonesia,[12] and as of 2016 it has more than 100 million monthly active users.[36] According to the app analytics firm App Annie, UC Browser was the 8th most downloaded mobile app of the 2010–2019 decade.[8]

UC Browser has gained significant popularity in China, India, and Indonesia. In October 2012, UC Browser topped Opera in Google Play's free Android app download category in India for the first time.[37] According to third-party web analytics firm StatCounter, UC Browser surpassed Opera as India's top mobile browser with 32.82 percent of the market share to Opera's 26.91 percent.[38] Google Zeitgeist 2013 showed that the "Most Searched Mobile Apps" in India were dominated by messaging and browsing apps, with WhatsApp and UC Browser topping the rankings for the most searches on mobile in 2013.[39]

The number of users of UC Browser may be significantly affected by the May 2020 recommendation by India's National Security Council following the 2020 China–India skirmishes that UC Browser and other Chinese-owned apps be blocked due to cyber-security concerns.[40]

HistoryEdit

UC Browser was initially launched in April 2004 as a J2ME-only application.

The logo of UC Browser was redesigned in December 2012, from a cartoon squirrel to a more abstract and stylized icon that's more in line with American designs.[41]

In May 2013, UCWeb customized its browser for Vodafone's Indian customers.[42] It also announced a partnership with Trend Micro, under which both companies worked to provide mobile web safety assessments in the browser.[43]

In August 2013, UC Browser provided distribution channels of companies like AppURL Initiative[44] and partned with distributor Gameloft to sell its products.[45]

Ban in IndiaEdit

On June 29 Monday, 2020, the Government of India banned UC Browser, along with 58 other Chinese apps such as TikTok and WeChat, citing data and privacy issues and claiming that it is a "threat to the sovereignty and integrity" of the country.[10][46] Many commentators have suggested that the move was a retaliation to the 2020 China–India skirmishes between India and China.[47]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Windows Desktop". Softpedia. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  2. ^ "Apple on the App Store". iTunes Store. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  3. ^ "UC Browser – Short Video Status & Video Downloader". Google Play Store. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  4. ^ "UC Browser Mini - Video Downloader & Video Status". Google Play Store. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  5. ^ "java browser". browse like a smartphone. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  6. ^ "UCBrowser UWP". Microsoft. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "A Browser You've Never Heard of Is Dethroning Google in Asia". Wall Street Journal.
  8. ^ a b Rayome, Alison DeNisco. "Facebook was the most-downloaded app of the decade". CNET. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  9. ^ a b c "UC Browser Review – Fast and Bandwidth Efficient". News.softpedia.com. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  10. ^ a b Shrivastava, Rahul (29 June 2020). "TikTok, Shareit, UC Browser among 59 Chinese apps banned by India as border tensions simmer in Ladakh". India Today. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  11. ^ "UCBrowser surpasses Opera Mini with 33 percent more downloads". Cellphonebeat.com. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  12. ^ a b Jon Russell (21 March 2014). "Chinese Browser-Maker UCWeb Cross 500 Million Users". The Next Web.
  13. ^ Xiang, Tracey. "UC Web Launches UC+ Open Platform, Addressing WebApp Strategy". TechNode. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  14. ^ Yin, Sara. "UC Browser 8.0.5 (for Android) Review & Rating". PC Magazine. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  15. ^ "UC Browser Releases Version 9.3 For Android Platform". Efytimes.com. 24 September 2013. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  16. ^ "UC Browser on Windows Phone now supports background downloads". Fonearena.com. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Edge? Impressive Web Browser Alternatives". Smashing Magazine. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  18. ^ "UC Web launches updated version of UC Browser for Android, Java and iPad | NDTV Gadgets". Gadgets.ndtv.com. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  19. ^ Hildebrandt, Amber; Seglins, Dave (21 May 2015). "Spy agencies target mobile phones, app stores to implant spyware". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  20. ^ Dorling, Philip (22 May 2015). "Australia a leader in hacking mobile phones, Snowden document reveals". The Canberra Times.
  21. ^ "Privacy and Security Issues with UC Browser". citizenlab.org. 21 May 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2016. by Experts: Jakub Dalek (lead), Katie Kleemola (lead), Adam Senft (lead), Christopher Parsons, Andrew Hilts, Sarah McKune, Jason Q. Ng, Masashi Crete-Nishihata, John Scott-Railton, Ronald Deibert
  22. ^ "A Tough Nut to Crack: A Further Look at Privacy and Security Issues in UC Browser â€" The Citizen Lab". citizenlab.org. 7 August 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  23. ^ "WUP! There It Is: Privacy and Security Issues in QQ Browser â€" The Citizen Lab". citizenlab.org. 28 March 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  24. ^ "Summary: Privacy and Security Issues with UC Browser". citizenlab.org. 21 May 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Edward Snowden Archives â€" The Citizen Lab". citizenlab.org. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Privacy and Security Issues with UC Browser".
  27. ^ "Research group says UC Browser, owned by Alibaba, found to leak data". Reuters. 21 May 2015.
  28. ^ "Update: Analysis of updated Android and Windows versions of UC Browser".
  29. ^ "Alibaba's UC Web Browser may face ban in India over data theft - Times of India".
  30. ^ "UC Browser under government lens for leaking user data to servers in China - Digit.in".
  31. ^ "Hundreds of millions of UC Browser users for Android are threatened". Dr. Web. 26 March 2019.
  32. ^ "UC Browser for Android, Desktop Exposes 500+ Million Users to MiTM Attacks". BleepingComputer. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  33. ^ "SSL/TLS Server Test of ucweb.com". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  34. ^ "Qualys SSL Labs - Projects / SSL Client Test". www.ssllabs.com.
  35. ^ "Opera Mini takes care of your security - Opera Mobile". 17 March 2016.
  36. ^ "UC Browser crosses 100 Million Monthly Active Users in India". deccanchronicle.com/. 18 November 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  37. ^ "UCWeb Boasts Dominance over Opera in India's Mobile Browser Market". Techinasia.com. 30 October 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  38. ^ "UCWeb overtakes Opera as India's top mobile browser, adds Jack Ma to board (INFOGRAPHIC)". Techinasia.com. 22 August 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  39. ^ "Google Zeitgeist 2013: WhatsApp Top Searched Mobile App, Chennai Express, Temple Run, Sunny Leone". MediaNama. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  40. ^ Gupta, Shishir (17 June 2020). "Intel agencies red-flag use of 53 mobile apps with links to China: Complete list". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  41. ^ Mott, Nathaniel (18 October 2012). "UCWeb opens US office, Americanizes its logo". PandoDaily. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  42. ^ "UCWeb customises mobile internet browser for Vodafone customers in India". timesofindia-economictimes.
  43. ^ "UC Web announces partnership with Trend Micro for in-browser mobile web safety assessment". Fonearena.com. 7 May 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  44. ^ "Global Consortium of Mobile Thought Leaders Support AppURL Initiative â€" Yahoo Finance Canada". Yahoo! Finance. 2 August 2013. Archived from the original on 9 December 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  45. ^ "Gameloft China: partners important for navigating China". Techinasia.com. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  46. ^ Iyengar, Rishi (29 June 2020). "India bans TikTok as tensions with China escalate". CNN Business.
  47. ^ Abi-Habib, Maria (29 June 2020). "India Bans Nearly 60 Chinese Apps, Including TikTok and WeChat". The New York Times. The move is part of the tit-for-tat retaliation after the Indian and Chinese militaries clashed earlier this month.